Feeding Minds, Not Landfills: Five Tips to Reduce to Food Waste

A 2019 World Wildlife Fund Report estimates U.S. schools waste 530,000 tons of food annually, resulting in 1.7 billion annual losses. Not only is this a significant financial burden, but it also has detrimental environmental impacts. Fortunately, there are a number of effective strategies that schools can implement to reduce their food waste. Try these five tips:

Tip #1: Track Your Inventory through Software

One of the best ways to reduce food waste is to reduce preventable food waste. Utilizing an intelligent inventory management solution can help each school site use every item in their facility. Automating your district’s inventory management allows the FIFO (first-in, first-out) principle to be easily put into practice at all site locations.

In addition, nutrition directors have increased visibility into exactly what each site has on shelves at any time. You can also view incoming orders, so it will be easy to tell if one site is consistently over-ordering for their kitchen, and find a solution.

Tip #2: Accurate Production Planning

Aside from tracking inventory, ensure sites within your district are accurately planning the amount of food to prepare for each school day to help reduce food waste. Accurate production planning will lead to fewer leftovers overall. With leftovers that inevitably occur, a production planning system automatically adds them to the next possible serving day. This should help more food move out of the kitchen and onto the serving line.

Tip #3: Educate Children about Food

Food waste is not just a problem in schools – it’s a problem nationwide. This MSNBC article claims that the U.S.A. tosses 40% of all edible food! As educators, we are on the front line and have the power to help change that statistic. Consider starting a program in your district to educate children about their school lunch food or creating a school garden. Simple lessons on how to grow and use produce could go a long way in encouraging children to eat foods they would have otherwise trashed.

Tip #4: Compost the Waste

Unfortunately, some waste is inevitable. To make the best out of it, begin a composting program at schools throughout your district. By composting food that would have otherwise been thrown away, schools can make their own hearty topsoil to use on school grounds in the flower beds, to nourish newly-planted trees, or to start their own student-run gardening program.

Tip #5: Partner with Local Farmers and Ranchers

Another unique option to use the daily school food waste is to create a mutually beneficial partnership between a school site and a local rancher or farmer. This article details a school-to-ranch partnership formed in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Schools could donate their raw food waste (produce and vegetable trimmings) to local ranchers to feed their animals. Depending on the type of farm or ranch the partnership is with, the farm may be able to give some fresh-grown crops in-kind or at a significant discount to the school. The school receives fresh, healthy produce at a reduced cost, and the farmer saves money when feeding his animals. Win win! You have an opportunity to create a mutually beneficial relationship that also positively impacts the environment.

Whatever approach to managing food waste you feel is best for your district, there are plenty of resources out there to help you get started. If you’re committed to reducing food waste, see how PrimeroEdge can help.